Skip to main content

Poor, Poor Academic Staff Union Of Universities By Achike Chude

February 15, 2022

Poor Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)! Another impending strike, another disruption to the nation’s academic calendar in university education. It must be a harrowing situation for ASUU, having to constantly confront the myriads of almost intractable problems facing university education in the country. The trauma to the students, who have had to grapple with the consequential extensions of their academic pursuits has been enormous. The same applies in a different degree to their parents and guardians. But the burden for these very painful decisions weighs heavily on the ASUU whose members have to face a tiring and an unenviable task of having to inform an exasperated public that they are once again on the warpath against a government and political elites who do not care whether education thrives or dies in our country. These are the same elites that supervised the death of the country’s once enviable and world class healthcare system. The same elites who have undertaken all kinds of protective security measures to protect and insulate themselves and families from the consequences of the unsecured environment their misgovernance, parochialism, and kleptocracy have wrought on the country. The ASUU agitation and angst is known. They have constantly informed the Nigerian people about the difficulties of operating in the country’s educational institutions, especially at the university level. Dozens and dozens of meetings and dialogues initiated by ASUU with governments over the years have not yielded solutions as the government enters agreements with the union with no intention of fulfilling them. On October 14, 2021, the leadership of ASUU met with the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige on issues, including funding for revitalization of public universities, earned academic allowances, University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS), promotion arrears, renegotiation of 2009 ASUU-FGN Agreement and the problems in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System Payment. Following assurances from the government, ASUU suspended the strike in good faith as the government, a few weeks later paid the sum of N22.1 billion earned allowance, out of the lot, while waiting for the government to come good on the other pending issues. When the government showed its well-known notoriety for not honoring agreements willingly entered into with unions, the co-chairmen of the National Inter-Religious Council, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammed Abubakar III, and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Dr. Samson Ayokunle, visited the President, Muhammadu Buhari over the lack of implementation of The Memorandum of Understanding the government signed with ASUU in 2009. Nothing new has come out of that meeting. The disdain and contempt for the advancement of education in the country by the country’s political leaders speaks volumes about their nature and character. Their failure to recognize the primacy of education as fundamental to the development and growth of our country is a crime of unprecedented magnitude. Set side by side with the prioritization of the education of their children and wards in some of the best schools in the world, their undermining of education in the country through acts of omission and commission borders on sheer lunacy and ‘treason.’ The consistent covert and overt attacks on education, especially with regards to federal owned tertiary institutions by their owner, the federal government, is nothing new, as such onslaught is usually a prelude by the elites to ‘water the ground,’ giving the impression that government cannot adequately fund education. The overall objective behind these attacks is to relentlessly undermine the universities by creating a situation where the Academic Staff Union of Universities is constantly forced to put the university system on frequent lockdown through its agitations for at least a minimum level of essential provisions of infrastructure, emoluments, and processes needed to have a more conducive university environment. The desired outcome to such frustrating tactics by the political class and elites is to instigate a process of a national discourse on the purported inviability of our federal universities and the absolute necessity to save education by privatizing them. These were the arguments advanced for the privatization of hundreds of the country’s public enterprises as they were simply shared among the powerful and compromised who proceeded to finally kill them off through asset stripping and sale. But Nigerians are unto them and will stop them in their tracks. Unknown to a lot of Nigerians, this has been at the root of the battle that ASUU has been fighting. The deprivation and starvation of the universities of much-needed funding is a major plot in the attacks. It is why, in the thick of the ASUU strike in 2021, rather than fund federal universities, the Muhammadu Buhari-led government approved a whopping $1.96 billion for the Kano Maradi rail line - a completely useless venture in economic terms. It is why the government did not break any sweat releasing the sum of $1.5 billion for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt refinery which is expected to be ready many months after the present government would have left power. Most people believe that the money will simply disappear into people’s private pockets. The $4 billion ostensibly paid by the FG to Dangote refinery for equity participation according to federal government sources is another indication that education does not enjoy the primacy of priority in the country. The sad truth is that our leaders are neither committed to the nation nor are they patriotic. These leadership deficits are the more reasons why we must begin to build a country outside of the present occupiers of political power in Nigeria. We are living witnesses to the undermining of social capital in the country following the breakdown of order and security as citizens without a stake in the polity roam the country by day and night, kidnapping, killing, raping, and pillaging. When you do not adequately educate your citizens, you end up with a band of social malcontents without a stake in protecting the polity. It is true that universities should look for more ingenious ways to access more funding outside of government by partnering with the business community in many areas such as consultancy, innovations and research. Contracts or jobs that can be executed by the universities must not be given to foreign institutions. Fee increases cannot be the way to go, as the obvious implications are too obvious - with the parlous state of the economy, many of our youths, mostly from humble homes will drop off. Nigeria needs more educated citizens. That there is still a shred of credibility in the nation’s federal universities is down to ASUU’s decades' old struggles. It could have been worse.